What Fictional Language Is Your State Learning? (Study)

What fictional language is your state learning?

Created for WordFinder

Fans of the eight-season series “Game Of Thrones” understand just how captivating the immersive worlds of Westeros and Essos are. So, too, are the mythical characters and complex story arcs that enthralled viewers for eight years. The show contained so many parallel stories that, by the time it ended, it was nearly impossible to tie them all up in a way that could satisfy its dedicated viewers. But more than three years after the final episode, one aspect of the show’s legacy still fascinates “Game Of Thrones” fans: its world of fictional languages.

But what about the languages of other franchises like “The Lord Of The Rings,” “Star Wars,” and “Star Trek”? To gauge Americans’ interest in each one, we conducted two surveys with a combined total of more than 2,000 respondents. The first asked about their sentiments towards learning languages in general, both fictional and real-life. The second asked “Game of Thrones” fans about their predictions about the new prequel series, “House of the Dragon,” and how it’s impacting their streaming routines. 

Key Takeaways

  • Washington, D.C. residents are the most interested in learning about fictional languages, while Louisianans are the least.

  • 81% of Americans are interested in learning a fictional language; Gen Zers are the most eager generation (89%).

  • 86% of “Game of Thrones” viewers plan to watch “House of the Dragon,” and 23% think it’ll be better than GoT.

  • 1 in 10 plan to illegally stream “House of the Dragon” instead of subscribing to HBO.

Searching for Languages

When we hear the unfamiliar sounds of a new language, our brains try to decipher the words, wondering – what does it all mean? Some languages sound like the plucking of staccato strings, while others drip off the tongue with more weight. The various sounds and expressions make people prefer to hear, learn, and search for some more than others. 

Fictional language interest by US stateFictional language interest by US state

Have you ever heard of a conlang? “The Lord of the Rings,” “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” “Avatar,” and “Game of Thrones” all use conlangs: languages constructed for worlds and peoples that don’t exist in reality.

For example, Daenerys Targaryen – the “Game of Thrones” character also known as The Mother of Dragons – speaks Valyrian: a language used in its namesake kingdom within the continent of Essos. Valyrian is split between two languages: High Valyrian, the older tongue that’s been largely replaced by Low Valyrian, which has diffused into many different dialects spoken across Essos. Much like Latin is in real-life English-speaking countries, High Valyrian is spoken and understood mostly by scholars and priests. But to the surprise of many characters she encounters, Daenerys also speaks it fluently.

We can see from the search volume graphic above that each of the fictional languages we studied, including Valyrian, was more favored in certain areas of the U.S. For example, Elvish from “The Lord of the Rings” was searched for the most in the Pacific Northwest. Created by the original series’ author, J.R.R. Tolkien, the most highly-developed Elvish languages are Sindarin (a dialect commonly spoken by Elves) and Quenya (an archaic Elvish dialect mostly used for spells and poetry).

On the other side of the country, Washington, D.C. residents were the most interested in conlangs. They most frequently searched for Vulcan, the language spoken by Spock on “Star Trek.” Linguist Marc Okran created the language in 1985 for the TV series, along with Klingon: another popular conlang, particularly in Illinois and Virginia.

Following Washington, D.C., the locations with the next-highest search volumes for fictional languages were: Vermont (Dwarvish), Wyoming (Dwarvish), Alaska (Dwarvish), and North Dakota (Orkish). Tolkien also created these languages for “The Lord of the Rings” – Dwarvish for the Dwarves and Orkish for the Orks (aka Orcs). According to Tolkien, the inspiration behind the Dwarvish language known as Khuzdul among Dwarves was Hebrew, which is why the two sound similar. Orkish, on the other hand, contains guttural, animal-like sounds combined with additions borrowed from other languages of Middle Earth, the world in which “The Lord of the Rings” takes place. 

Learning a Language? Check, Please!

Some people can learn new languages more easily than others. But once proficient, the learner may even be able to think in languages other than their native tongue. Which languages – real or imagined – are Americans most interested in learning overall? 

Infographic with people learning fictional languages and real languagesInfographic with people learning fictional languages and real languages

Fluency in a fictional language is a highly specialized skill. Fantasy and sci-fi superfans are likely the ones most interested in learning them, but what about real-life languages? We discovered that nearly everyone (94%) wanted to expand their worldly knowledge and vocabulary in this way. People were especially interested in learning Spanish or French. Like English, both these languages are derived from Latin, making them easier for most English speakers to learn than other languages. As for fictional languages, more than three-quarters of Americans (81%) said they’d like to learn one.

Since the brain’s plasticity diminishes as we grow older, it can become harder to form connections in the brain that allow us to learn languages. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that older generations are less interested in doing so: When we accounted for age, we found that baby boomers were the generation most interested in learning the Vulcan language from “Star Trek” (32%). However, they were also the generation most interested in learning High Valyrian (28%). As for the younger respondents, Dothraki drew the most interest from millennials (37%) and Gen Xers (32%).

The Dothraki language from “Game of Thrones” was the conlang most Americans wanted to learn (34%), with male fans being especially interested (19% more so than women). On the other hand, women were 18% more likely than men to want to learn Klingon from “Star Trek.” Perhaps the most prominent Dothraki-born “Game of Thrones” character, Khal Drogo (played by Jason Momoa), is someone that men are more likely to emulate.

New Beginnings: House of What?

It’s hard to imagine what the new “Game of Thrones” prequel, “House of the Dragon,” will be about. But with so many storylines to pull from, and so many fans dissatisfied with that final episode, the writers have plenty to work with. What we do know is that the new showwill follow the stories of House Targaryen. Set about 200 years before the original series, viewers will continue to explore the world of Westeros. And, of course, there will be dragons! 

Game of Thrones House of the Dragon infographicGame of Thrones House of the Dragon infographic

Streaming subscription costs are straining many Americans’ budgets at the seams. Even the relatively low-cost services quickly add up when combined, making it hard to afford the most popular options in our inflated economy. Although 86% of those surveyed said they plan to watch “House of the Dragon” once it’s available, not everyone was willing to pay for it. Over half of respondents that did not already subscribe to HBO (52%) said they would not subscribe to watch the new series. Rather, many said they would use a friend’s account (39%) or stream it illegally (nearly 1 in 10). 

Gen Xers were most likely to fess up to this piracy plan (14%). Meanwhile, millennials were the least likely to resubscribe to HBO in order to watch, instead planning to use a friend’s account (46%). Accounting for gender, we found that men were more likely to stream illegally, while women preferred mooching off of friends. While this might be a better option than breaking the law, sharing streaming service passwords comes with its own risks that are best avoided. 

Fans may use different ways to tune in, but there’s likely one thing on everyone’s mind: Is the new show going to be just like the old one? “Game of Thrones” was notorious for developing a character into a fan-favorite and then breaking viewers’ hearts by suddenly killing them off. And while no one was likely to expect a happy ending to a show that was more destructive than the Death Star on Endor, the show’s final episode was a massive disappointment to fans and actors alike. It’s easy to see why Americans expect that in “House of the Dragon,” a central character will be killed off after just six episodes.

So, What Have We Learned?

Americans love the genres of sci-fi and fantasy enough that most would want to learn some of their fictional languages. The development of “Star Wars” 45 years ago, followed by the popularity of “The Lord of the Rings” films and the “Game of Thrones” series, shows just how interested people are in these kinds of stories.

As fans anticipate the new “House of the Dragon” series, many are likely wondering: Will history repeat itself? Time will tell. We just hope the showrunners give us more of the many colorful languages we loved in “Game of Thrones” and a better ending this time around.


WordFinder by YourDictionary conducted two surveys: one exploring languages Americans desire to learn (1,003 respondents) and another about perceptions surrounding the “House of the Dragon” premiere (1,000 respondents). We also collected search volume data to determine what fictional language was most associated with each state. 

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